The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced Bluetooth 4.1, a software update to the existing Bluetooth 4.0 technology in use by all of Apple's current Mac and iOS devices. Dubbed "Bluetooth Smart", it's designed to enable the "Internet of Things" by making connections easier and more powerful than ever. The bullet points, from Bluetooth:
Coexistence — engineered to work seamlessly and cooperatively with the latest generation cellular technologies like LTE. Bluetooth and LTE radios can communicate in order to ensure transmissions are coordinated and therefore reduce the possibility of near-band interference. The coordination between the two technologies happens automatically, while the consumer experiences the high quality they expect.
Better Connections — provides manufacturers with more control over creating and maintaining Bluetooth connections by making the reconnection time interval flexible and variable. This improves the consumer experience by allowing devices to reconnect automatically when they are in proximity of one another. The consumer can leave the room and upon returning, two recently used devices reconnect without user intervention.
Improved Data Transfer — Bluetooth Smart technology provides bulk data transfer. For example, through this new capability, sensors, which gathered data during a run, bike ride or swim, transfer that data more efficiently when the consumer returns home.
Since it's a software update, it might be possible that existing Bluetooth 4.0 devices, including Apple's iPhones, iPads, and Macs, could be upgraded, but we'll have to wait and see. It's still early days. What's more interesting to me is how, after years of building up the various platforms, including Apple's, both platforms and the internet are now mature enough to have a new wave of technology built up on them. Will it be a central brain that projects our cloud-stored environment to anything and everything we come across, or will it be a hive of brains that work together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts? In a few years, will my iPhone power a wide range of devices all around me, from home to health to automotive to creative and productive and back again, or will all those devices simply be my iPhone, when and as I need them to be?
Either way, the connection will have to be there, invisible but persistent, always on, always available. Whether Bluetooth 4.1 will be that connection, or some form of ad-hoc Wi-Fi, or something else, we'll have to wait and see. Here are the Bluetooth 4.1 specifications and the full press release is below.
Kirkland, WA - December 04, 2013 - The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) today announced the adoption of updates to the Bluetooth Core Specification. Bluetooth 4.1 is an important evolutionary update to the wireless specification, which experienced a revolutionary update in July 2010 with Bluetooth Smart, the intelligent, low-energy technology enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The updates will improve consumer usability with increased co-existence support for LTE, bulk data exchange rates, and aid developer innovation by allowing devices to support multiple roles simultaneously. The new release also lays the groundwork for IP-based connections, extending Bluetooth technology's role as the essential wireless link for the IoT.
"Bluetooth Smart technology put us on a rocket ship of growth, with Bluetooth annual product shipment projections skyrocketing to more than 4.5 billion in the next five years," said Suke Jawanda, Bluetooth SIG CMO. "We updated the Bluetooth specification to address this projected growth, making changes to give developers more control in assigning a role to their product, limiting interference with other wireless technologies, and allowing Bluetooth Smart products to exchange data faster and maintain connections with less manual intervention. These updates reflect the demand we see in the market. We will continue to sculpt Bluetooth wireless technology to extend its critical role in enabling the Internet of Things and ensure it is the very best solution for OEMs, developers and, ultimately, consumers."
Bluetooth 4.1 extends the Bluetooth brand promise to provide consumers with a simple experience that "just works." Major usability updates come in three areas:
Bluetooth 4.1 extends the Bluetooth Smart development environment by providing product and application developers with even more flexibility to create products that can take on multiple roles. With this new capability, a single device acts as both a Bluetooth Smart peripheral and a Bluetooth Smart Ready hub at the same time. For example, a smart watch acts as a hub gathering information from a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor while simultaneously acting as a peripheral to a smartphone — displaying new message notifications from the phone. As the Bluetooth Smart ecosystem grows, the Bluetooth SIG expects more solutions to play both a hub and peripheral role. Bluetooth 4.1 delivers this type of flexibility to Bluetooth Smart devices and application developers.
By adding a standard means to create a dedicated channel, which could be used for IPv6 communications in the Core Specification, the groundwork is laid for future protocols providing IP connectivity. With the rapid market adoption of Bluetooth Smart and the coming addition of IP connectivity, all signs point to Bluetooth as a fundamental wireless link in the Internet of Things. These updates make it possible for Bluetooth Smart sensors to also use IPv6, giving developers and OEMs the flexibility they need to ensure connectivity and compatibility.
For the latest Bluetooth 4.1 technical details, tools and other information including an FAQ, brand guide and more, visit: https://www.bluetooth.org/en-us/specification/adopted-specifications